Theater in Hanover Bans Large Bags

Theater in Hanover Bans Large Bags

Hanover — A security measure enacted last week at the Nugget Theaters, motivated in part by recent cinema attacks in Louisiana and Tennessee, requires moviegoers to leave backpacks and large handbags at the box office.

“In the interest of customer safety, due to recent events at other cinemas,” a message to the Nugget’s email list said, “effective immediately The Nugget will no longer permit backpacks and other large handbags into theaters. We ask that you leave them at the box office while you watch your movie and pick them up on your way out.”

Last month in Lafayette, La., a man shot and killed two women and injured other cinema patrons before taking his own life. More recently, in Nashville, Tenn., police shot and killed another man armed with a hatchet and pepper spray who attacked a theater but did not inflict any fatal injuries.

And earlier this month, James Holmes, a former graduate student in Colorado, was sentenced to life in prison for killing 12 people and wounding 70 others at a movie theater in suburban Denver in 2012.

Jeff Graham, general manager for the nonprofit Hanover Improvement Society that operates the cinema, said the policy came partly in response to such events, but also was meant to stop customers from sneaking in snacks and beer.

“We’re trying to sell our own stuff,” Graham said. “We don’t want people bringing their stuff in.”

In a later email, Graham explained that theater managers will have the authority to look inside bags of any size. Backpacks and oversized bags, he said, will be left “in a secure location with plenty of storage capacity and always under the supervision of an employee.”

Graham called the move a “proactive management decision” that had garnered “99 percent positive feedback” from customers.

Town leaders this week praised the new policy.

“I support the choice,” Police Chief Charlie Dennis said. “I think they’re trying to be proactive in trying to keep their business and their theater safe.”

Entertainment Cinemas, the movie theater on the Miracle Mile in Lebanon, has similar restrictions, including a sign that tells patrons, “Oversized bags may be inspected for food and drink and not allowed in.”

Management there deferred comment to the Massachusetts-based chain’s corporate owner, Bill Hanney. A phone message left for him was not returned.

News reports from around the country have highlighted theater owners’ efforts to keep patrons safe and inspire confidence in their businesses. Regal Entertainment Group, the largest movie theater chain in America, recently announced that customers’ bags would be subject to security searches at more than 700 locations.

“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America,” the company said in a policy statement on its website that said bags “of any kind” would be subject to inspection. “We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”

The industry standard for theater owners is unclear on this issue. The main trade organization in the United States, the National Association of Theater Owners, has no recommendations on safety measures owners may take in response to the recent attacks, according to Daniel Vieira, executive director of Theatre Owners of New England, the group’s area chapter.

“We leave it totally up to the regional circuits and independents to do what is appropriate,” Vieira said over the phone Wednesday. “It’s totally up to them.”

Late Wednesday afternoon at the theater, the concessions stand was open and the aroma of popcorn wafted through the doorway, where Howard Corey, an occasional patron from Randolph Center, stood perusing movie posters.

Corey said the security precaution was no hassle for him, as he typically leaves his bags in the car and buys food at the counter.

As for whether it made him feel safer, he said, “I suppose it could, but somebody could come in with a very small size explosive that could be very powerful.”

Or a small, easily concealed handgun, he said, musing over blast radii and other factors in a potential attack.

Returning to more mundane concerns, Corey noted that the rule could pose more trouble for college students, who are more likely than he to carry their bags straight from campus to the theater.

Town Manager Julia Griffin mentioned the same idea: Dartmouth College students are practically “surgically attached” to their bookbags, she said, and may have more to say about the policy than other theatergoers.

But despite the potential pushback from students, she said, “I would definitely be doing this if I were a movie theater owner.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Author: Rob Wolfe Valley News Staff Writer

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